Dallas – It’s no surprise that digital marketing – and mainly social media marketing – is one of the best ways to reach new potential tenants in the student housing space. Students spend an inordinate amount of their downtime scrolling through many social media platforms, from TikTok to Instagram.
While the focus on digital marketing has been observed within the sector for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the focus on the space by eliminating opportunities for traditional marketing methods such as in-person events and tours.
In December, a panel of marketing professionals discussed what’s hot and what’s not in social media marketing at the InterFace Conference Group’s third annual LeaseCon/TurnCon conference in Dallas.
According to a 2021 survey noted by team coordinator Allison Slager, executive director of national business development for LeaseLabs by RealPage, 79 percent of marketers used paid advertising across social media platforms. With marketing budgets tightening, it’s important to know what resonates with today’s students to ensure all of your marketing money is well spent.
Committee members agreed that the most popular social media marketing platform is Instagram, particularly with its recent addition of Reels, a tool that allows users to post short videos.
“Instagram is likely to be the most dominant platform for the foreseeable future, so it is important for owners and operators to understand how the platform is evolving as they formulate their marketing strategy,” said Michael Newton, CEO of Swarm.
Instagram plans to make several changes over the next year, one of which is a transition in how the platform displays content. “There is a big change coming as the company goes back to time feeding,” Newton said. “This turns your marketing strategy on its head if you’re working with Instagram now, and it will be the biggest change in marketing for the next rental year.”
As it currently stands, the platform uses a written algorithm to suppress your posts unless you pay money, according to Newton. With a chronological chronology, the best way to get attention is to post as often as possible – three to five times a day in order to create actual impressions. “This return to the chronological compendium will allow companies to operate and get their name out there with significant reach just through the business,” he said.
Another change recently is that Instagram will now allow any user to post a link to their story, as links in previous years could only be included if you had more than 10,000 followers. Matt Pavlik, Head of GRO Marketing, used this tool recently during the launch of the company’s new website and managed to get 380 site visits in a short period of time.
“It is recognized that if any of your properties are posting anything, you should include the links,” Pavlik said. Instagram has also released a tool where you can collaborate with another account for posts. If your property has 3,000 followers and an influencer has 5,000 followers, the potential reach is 8,000 followers for a collaborative post, so you can double the number of views. Both are free tools that are gaining visibility.”
TikTok, a social media platform where viewers can watch short personal videos, was noted by the panel as the most popular marketing platform.
“It really changed the way we consume content, especially for Generation Z,” Newton noted. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to build TikToks around your property, but quick, short videos are the way students want to consume your content. Anything that is too long or requires any kind of effort will hurt you.”
When posting on social media, noted Leslie Cole-Gallant, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at The Pivotal Cos. Transparency, creating a real connection and having a face behind your brand are the most important considerations.
“Let residents and potential future residents know that you are their resource and that they can really connect with you when they enter the rental office,” she said. “If residents see members of your rental office in funny videos on TikTok, they will rush to these people immediately because they know them and have a solid connection. Your rental and marketing efforts need a support.”
Newton agreed, noting that personalizing content has a huge impact when looking to connect with the current generation of students via social media. “There’s a strategy we’ve applied to almost every drug we’ve worked with that has been willing to try it and 100 percent of the time it works very well,” he said.
“If you’re doing any kind of organic outbound marketing on social media where you find students and send them direct messages, try having a cheery, outgoing member of your team send them a 10-second video instead of saying their name,” Newton continued.
For example, ‘Hi Ashley, I saw that you are a student at the University of Texas. We’re having a pool party. It should swing. This is how Generation Z wants to be communicated with. When we sent this type of message, it was rarely seen and ignored. It is often lovable, or sometimes the students respond again with a video message, and this is then a very organic and warm connection. “
And while the conversation about marketing often focuses on digital, GRO’s Pavlik noted that he expects the in-person event integration to be very successful in the upcoming rental season.
“People are totally tired of Zoom calls and still appreciate the personal touch,” he said. “I think in-person events are going to be running this coming fall. In a sea of everyone fumbling and scratching to get your attention and buy-in, communicating in person, such as through a video or through an in-person event, will stand out from the packaging.”